Researchers are striving to create photonic microcircuits that can manipulate photons as deftly as today’s microchips manipulate electrons. Light signals offer the potential for more-efficient information processing. Now, engineers have found a way to extend one of the most advanced capabilities in electronics directly into the photonics realm.
A team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that previously developed some of the world’s fastest electronic transistors has modified its record-setting technology to create a practical device that’s both an electronic transistor and an infrared laser, a photonic component.
Science News headlines, in your inbox
Headlines and summaries of the latest Science News articles, delivered to your email inbox every Thursday.
Thank you for signing up!
There was a problem signing you up.
Ten months ago, the team unveiled a prototype transistor laser, but it had to be cooled to –73°C to work (SN: 11/20/04, p. 324). In the Sept. 26 Applied Physics Letters, the team reports the first transistor laser that functions at room temperature. “We haven’t compromised any of the high-speed aspects of the transistor to get there,” notes team member Nick Holonyak Jr.
Although the new device can switch on and off at only the modest frequency of
3 gigahertz, frequencies 100 times as rapid as that appear feasible, Holonyak says. The upshot could be blazingly fast optical-fiber telecommunications and computers.